Andrew Ditchfield, pastry chef at the House of Commons, provides ideas on how to add value and appeal to a selection of popular desserts
Lucky is the kitchen that has a pastry chef. For many, the reality is that there is neither the time nor skill to devote to turning out sweet creations that persuade the diner to finish their meal with a spot of indulgence. Inevitably, the solution is to buy in ready-prepared desserts, but that doesn't mean you can't add your own personal touch.
Caterer and Hotelkeeper asked Andrew Ditchfield (pictured right), pastry chef at the House of Commons, to take five staple desserts found on many menus - and widely available as ready-made items at varying costs - and add value and appeal with a little flair and imagination.
The quantities given are for garnishing 10 individual portions and the total cost is for garnish only. Dependant on the operation, the augmented desserts could fetch between £5 to £8 selling price.
Summer pudding with raspberry
Raspberry purée, 200g £1.20
Mint, 80g £0.10
Freeze-dried raspberries, 15g £1.01
Double cream, 200g £0.28
White chocolate, 50g £0.40
Place the summer pudding to one end of the plate and decorate with raspberry purée. Add a thin wafer of raspberry cellophane - made by spreading a thin layer of raspberry purée evenly out on a silicone mat and drying this out in a hot cupboard - a small quenelle of frozen raspberry purée and a quenelle of whipped cream. Finish with a dusting of freeze-dried raspberry and chopped mint.
Baked vanilla cheesecake with compressed vanilla strawberries, and pistachio
Double cream, 200g £0.28
Pistachio nut cream, 300gm £1.16
Strawberries, 50gm £0.47
Vanilla syrup, 250gm £0.33
Hob Nob crunch (350g Hob Nob biscuits, 30g golden syrup, 50g beurre noisette £1.07
White chocolate 150g £0.31
Total (for 10 portions) £3.62
Pull the pistachio cream - made by adding a small amount of pistachio compound to lightly whipped cream - along the plate. Place the vanilla cheesecake in the centre of the plate and sprinkle it with the Hob Nob crunch - made by combining the biscuits, golden syrup and beurre noisette.Top with a small quenelle of whipped cream. Add the strawberries - which have been steeped in the vanilla syrup - to the plate.
Creme brulee, with confit pineapple, passion fruit and cantucci biscuit
Pineapple, 150g £0.42
Passion fruit, one £0.27
Cantucci biscuit, 150g £0.61
Mango purée, 100g £0.58
Turn out the individual brûlées, crisp with brown sugar and a blowtorch and place in the centre of a bowl plate. Place the pineapple and passion fruit confit around the brûlée. Drizzle the mango purée around the dessert and decorate with the cantucci biscuits
Chocolate marquise with coconut and lime
Lime, one £0.21
Chocolate sauce, 85g £0.18
Coconut purée, 100g £0.62
Olive oil crumble (Mix together 50g malto dextrin, 75g olive oil, 35g icing sugar) £0.33
Coconut, 0.1 of a whole £0.35
Turn out the chocolate marquise and lay on its side towards the back of the plate. Evenly garnish around the dessert with pieces of the olive oil crumble, coconut purée and chocolate sauce. Further decorate with a cube of frozen coconut purée roasted coconut shavings and a dusting of lime zest.
Lemon tart with kumquat compote and almond sponge
Kumquats, 100g £0.50
Raisins, 50g £0.25
Sugar, 150g £0.15
Vanilla pod, one quarter £0.31
White chocolate, 180g £0.37
Almond sponge, 220g £0.98
Meringue, 200g whites/400g sugar £0.75
Total (for 10 portions) £3.31
Take a wedge of lemon tart, "hedge hog" the top with the meringue and lightly blowtorch the top. Place the dessert in the centre of the plate and decorate with kumquat and raisin compote. Add a warm almond muffin to the centre of the plate and further garnish with a small piece of white chocolate.
Using freeze-dried fruits - whole, quarters, slices, chunks, chips, crumbs, flakes and powders - opens up exploratory possibilities for chefs. Powders can be mixed into existing recipes, delivering intense flavour without additional moisture. Just a few flakes can add immense flavour and a crunch where you would not expect it, such as balsamic flakes sprinkled over fresh strawberries. Whole or sliced fruits can be used as an ingredient or a textural garnish; providing an innovative twist to classic favourites while improving their taste, texture and appearance.
Andrea Ruff, pâtisserie specialist, Cheese Cellar
020 7819 6000
Unusual flavour combinations or tapas-style mini desserts let the diner taste a range of flavours in one sitting without over indulging. To make the most of the tapas trend which is popular right now, prepare smaller portions and serve in a range of different ways including shot glasses, mini martini glasses and small espresso cups. These small tasters of dessert offer up just enough sweetness to end a meal without over-indulging on a massive portion.
Gillian Rattray, marketing manager, Macphie
0800 085 9800
Two to three scoops of premium ice-cream offer an indulgent yet quick and easy to prepare dessert - ideal for appealing to those customers looking for a lighter alternative to a more substantial dessert - and can be served as a sharing or taster plate of miniature scoops. With some carefully considered flavour combinations, ice-cream can elevate a classic dessert to another level. For example, apple crumble with Amaretto & Almond ice-cream, rich chocolate torte with Grand Marnier ice-cream, and lemon tart with Raspberry Sorbet.
Julia Jones, head of customer marketing, Mövenpick Ice Cream
Having a dessert menu with appealing images and detailed descriptions can increase dessert take up by at least 25%. As winter approaches it is also important to re-evaluate the flavours on your ice-cream menu. Having the key flavours of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry is essential, but start to look at more unusual "wintery" flavours. Popular varieties include Apple Strudel, Coffee Mocha Swirl and Rum & Raisin.
Christina Veal, director, New Forest Ice Cream
023 8087 1508
Rice has so much to offer as a key ingredient in a growing range of dessert dishes that will go down well with consumers all-year round. A contemporary new take on rice pudding by Dean Heselden, holder of the Tilda Chef of the Year title, is Earl Grey infused jasmine rice pudding, ginger snap cannelloni, rhubarb mousse and walnut ice-cream, while recent creations by Stuart Fay, head chef at the Bell Inn, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Essex, have included caramelised risotto and basmati-baked mango tart served with coconut ice-cream and crème brûlée made with Thai jasmine rice and baked rice pudding wrapped in a brandy snap ring.
Mark Lyddy, head of food service, Tilda